I am pleased to be joined by author, Hannah Vincent today. Her novel, Alarm Girl was released by Myriad Editions in August 2014. Thank you for joining me, Hannah. Can you tell us about Alarm Girl and how the idea originated?
I was travelling in Africa when I came across a newspaper article about a woman who died on the eve of her young daughter’s birthday. The image of a mother preparing for her child’s birthday which she will never see caught my imagination.
It’s a rite-of-passage story, told partly from the point of view of a child who hasn’t been told enough about the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death. To fill in the gaps she makes up her own version of the truth. Set in South Africa, the book’s location is a metaphor for the strange emotional world a child inhabits after the death of a parent.
What’s your writing process like? How much do you plan and do you edit as you go?
I make notes for scenes for a long time and when the time is right (and judging this is crucial, I think) I start ‘joining up the dots’, filling in the gaps in between these scenes. Edit as I go, yes. Writing is rewriting.
You’re also a playwright. How did this contribute toward writing the novel?
My experience of writing plays means I am confident writing dialogue. Also, I visualise scenes, with characters moving about and relating to one another physically.
In a play, the writer only reveals the tip of the iceberg – what characters say to one another and what they do on stage. In prose, the writer has the freedom to show the reader a lot more of the iceberg but writing plays taught me how to be economic and show only what is necessary to the drama.
What’s your favourite word?
I’m fond of ‘lozenge’ – it’s lovely, don’t you think?
TV/Music guilty pleasures?
I have no guilty pleasures – what’s to be guilty about? Perhaps others might consider I have spent rather too many hours watching Project Runway and Naked and Afraid and dancing to Fleetwood Mac but I don’t consider this time wasted and I certainly don’t feel guilty about watching telly or listening to music.
I would like to shake Jane Eyre by the hand and clasp her to my bosom, tell her how much I admire her and how much her story moved me when I first read it as a young girl. Similarly, all the characters in Jude the Obscure (many of whom I would also like to give a little shake and try talk some sense into them). Similarly, Spongebob Squarepants because he is just so lovely and we could have such a nice time together.
If you could instantly travel to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
There are places I’d like to go (Tokyo, Ethiopia, New York.) but there are other people I’d like to come with me – can they come too?
Out of all the books you’ve read, which three have changed your life?
I’m not sure any book has changed my life but I would say books like Jane Eyre and the Frances the Badger series by Russell Hoban and more latterly books by John Updike and Richard Yates have all shaped my outlook on life.
What’s been your best writing moment so far?
It felt pretty good to hear Candida Lacey (MD at Myriad Editions) say ‘we’d like to publish this’.
Another high point was receiving a letter in 1988 when I was working as an administrative clerk for an insurance company in Norwich to say that my first play had been chosen as one of the winners of the Royal Court Young Writers Competition.
Five tips for new writers?
Write every day.
Writing is Rewriting.
Less is more.
Which song would describe you best?
I have absolutely no idea how to answer this question – best ask someone else.
Hannah Vincent began her writing life as a playwright after studying drama at the University of East Anglia. Her plays include The Burrow, Throwing Stones (Royal Court Theatre) and Hang (National Theatre Studio). She joined the BBC as a television script editor, working on classic adaptations as well as original drama serials from 1996 – 2001. She now teaches Creative Writing for the Open University. She completed the MA in Creative Writing at Kingston University London in 2012 where she received the Faber MA Prize for Outstanding Creative and Academic Achievement. She is currently studying for her PhD at the University of Sussex and is working on her second novel.
For more information about Hannah, visit her author page at Myriad: http://www.myriadeditions.com/creator/hannah-vincent/ or you can follow Hannah on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hannahvincent22